San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Businesses Pitch In for Childcare Facilities

A growing number of businesses are helping parents cope with the dual responsibilities of work and childcare by providing daycare centers at the workplace.In North America and Europe, this Is nothing new, as for years employers have recognized the expense and pressures of caring for children, particularly for mothers. Now, Costa Rica’s businesses are catching on to the benefits of providing childcare facilities, a convenient and often low-cost service for employees.“The daycare here was created first and foremost so that the employees’ children could be cared for in a safe environment,” said Magaly Coto, manager of the daycare center for La Nación newspaper group, a joint program of La Nación and the La Nación Employees’ Solidarista Association, a worker-management association managed by employees. “The program has now been running for 11 years. The service here is extremely comprehensive, with a staff body of 24 caring for more than 100 children daily from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.”WORKPLACE-based daycare centers are not exclusive to companies in the capital. Hotel Punta Islita on the Nicoya Peninsula, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, recently founded a center to provide a low-cost daycare service for staff. Parents pay at most ¢20,000 ($42) per month, with the hotel covering the rest of the costs.“The daycare presents a range of advantages for employees who wouldn’t usually have access to formal childcare,” said Shirley Camacho of the hotel’s human resources department, who runs the center. “It provides care to children of different ages, even young babies. Parents can now really have peace of mind.”Camacho explained the daycare was created to help parents who didn’t have the means to cover childcare costs. The center is particularly welcome in these parts, as the rural nature of the Nicoya Peninsula makes access to educational childcare environments very difficult.IN order to finance these projects, both La Nación and Hotel Punta Islita have relied on the support of associated organizations. In the case of La Nación, this has meant the involvement of the solidarista association.“Not only was the association the driving body behind setting up the daycare center, it also covers half the costs so parents get a big discount,” Coto explained. Hotel Punta Islita aims to go a little further than providing just an employee perk. A year ago, the hotel set up the Villafranca- Zurcher Foundation to identify and improve the situation of the surrounding rural communities. The nonprofit organization’s inaugural project was the Islita Daycare Center.This is only the first stage of an initiative that aims to include a preschool, a kindergarten, the Islita Elementary School and a high school in the nearby town of Coyote. For funding, the foundation relies on a $6 voluntary contribution from hotel guests.By thinking in terms of not just employees but also the surrounding communities as a whole, Punta Islita hopes to avoid creating a two-tier system that benefits those who work for the hotel and leaves behind those who don’t. “We hope to provide a model that other companies will copy,” Camacho said.

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